National Match Armory

Service Rifle Shooting Fun:

   There are many ways to enjoy antique and modern service rifles: Collectors collect, plinkers plink, shooters shoot, and accumulators accumulate. 

    But it has been our experience that most service rifle enthusiasts never get beyond an occasional trip to the neighborhood range when it comes to actually shooting their firearms.

    They seem glued to the shooting bench and rarely, if ever, shoot more than 100 yards.

    This is fine if it's all you've got, but sad to those of us who regularly put ourselves, as well as our rifles, to the test at service rifle matches from coast to coast. 

We have discovered the joy that comes from learning to use our valued Springfield, M1, M1A and AR-15 rifles skillfully at long distances, as they were intended.

    There are, we're sure, good and real reasons for not shooting competitively, but we haven't heard any of 'em yet. After all, service rifles by their very definition, are practically indestructible.

    But, we do hear lots and lots of excuses, and most of them can be boiled down to just one: "I don't want to try because I might embarrass myself in front of other people who can shoot better than I can."

"Don't feel like the Lone Ranger."

    We'd be the last ones to give you grief about being self-conscious, so we'll share with you a closely held secret: Everybody  is self-conscious, especially when they have not yet developed the self-confidence that comes with experience.

    Every shooter at the match was once a beginner, so don't feel like the Lone Ranger. 

    But more importantly, don't let self-consciousness keep you from getting involved in competitive service rifle shooting. After all, you'll be shooting with other shooters, but you're shooting against only yourself. 

    Beating your own personal best score and improving your own overall average is what competitive shooting is all about, not who posts the highest score on a particular day.

    Many shooting clubs, especially CMP-affiliated clubs, offer one-day service rifle orientation classes. These classes are low cost and are designed to teach beginners the basics of service rifle competition.

    In addition to classroom study, orientation classes also include time at the range under the watchful eye of qualified volunteer helpers.

    You will learn the basics of rifle operation, basic shooting positions, use of the sling, range commands and the sequence of events at a typical service rifle match.

    At the conclusion of the orientation, you will have completed a 50-round match, conducted at a slow, instructive pace, and will have qualified to purchase of an M1 rifle from the Civilian Marksmanship Program.

    To prepare for the orientation, and to increase your knowledge and understanding of competitive high power service rifle shooting in general, you would do well to invest in the 3-tape, 6-hour video series "Mind Over Matter" recently released by the Civilian marksmanship program. Check their website,, for more information.

"Ready on the right...

    If there is no CMP-affiliated club within driving distance that offers orientation classes (You can find out easily by checking the club list on the CMP website and making a couple of phone calls.), you can attend a local club-sponsored service rifle match as a beginning shooter, or as an observer if you'd prefer.

    Some local matches are more formal than others, so don't let a lack of equipment, skill or experience hold you back. In fact, most are structured to accommodate beginners as well as seasoned shooters. Just look around and you are certain to find one at which you feel comfortable. 

    Introduce yourself to whomever seems to be in charge, tell him you want to learn about service rifle shooting, and you'll be welcomed with open arms - trust me!

    Once you have completed an orientation class or observed a local match or two, you're as ready as you'll ever be to get started.

    You can start with any rifle that conforms to the rules. It must be safe to shoot and reliable. Most beginning service rifle shooters start with an M1 or an M1A in completely as-issued condition.

    You'll also need ammo, a military sling, a mat of some kind to lie on and either a spotting scope or good binoculars. Eye and ear protection, of course, is a must.

"Ready on the left...

    It's a good idea to be familiar with the very rifle you will shoot in your first real match. It needn't be fancy or new, but the controls should fall easily to hand and should operate properly.

    You should have established a "no-wind zero" at the distance the match will be shot, using the same ammo you will shoot in the match.

    You should also be completely comfortable loading and unloading your rifle, and in making it safe by removing the magazine, locking the bolt open, checking the chamber and inserting an open-bolt indicator.

    It's a very good idea to have practiced getting into and out of the positions, and how your sling should be adjusted for each of them.

    Everything will seem foreign at this point, but not to worry, the more you do it the more familiar it will become.

    The idea is to have some idea of how to do the things that will be expected of you during the match. That way you'll not hold up the rest of the competitors.

"Ready on the firing line...

    It is not necessary to excel at your first match, but to just get through it...preferably without messing up too badly.

    But when you do mess up - and you will - keep a good attitude. It happens to everybody.

    The same is doubly true when somebody else messes up...your time will come.

    Just lighten up, take a couple of deep breaths and remember that we're all here to have fun...and you can't have fun if your underwear is too tight!

    The biggest lesson you'll learn at your first match is that all your fear of being embarrassed was for nothing.

    You're biggest gain will be in self-confidence for next time.

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National Match Armory

    "Why settle for less?"

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